What exactly did Thomas Edison say about the theory of relativity?

March 29, 2014

Need some scholarly help here.  I worry that what I want isn’t available in print, and perhaps not at all on the internet.

Thomas Edison at 80, in 1927

Thomas Edison at 80, in 1927; from Edison After 40: Edison’s career coincided with the widespread use of photography. During his lifetime he sat several times for professional portrait photographers. In addition, most of the time there was a photographer at the laboratory, recording the historic course of events.

Remember the old “Garry Moore Show?”  In the farming and  not-quite-suburban towns where I spent my first 18 years, Garry  Moore was a popular guy.  Today he might be remembered as the variety show host who pushed to get Carol Burnett on television, and helped her early career.  In his own right, he was a television staple — MC for daytime quiz shows, night-time quiz shows, and a couple of variety programs that entertained those of us living in what was then the greater American community, but is today too often mislabeled as “fly-over land.”

Garry Moore, Carol Burnett, and Durward Kirby, in a publicity still photo from 1961's

Garry Moore, Carol Burnett, and Durward Kirby, in a publicity still photo from 1961’s “Garry Moore Show.” Wikipedia

In one of his variety programs (probably called “The Garry Moore Show”) he featured a weekly pirouette through history using old photos and old films, “That Wonderful, Wonderful Year.”  In that time before home VCRs, historical films were difficult and expensive to come by (some still are).  These vignette and skit views into history were often unique.  Hey, it was an entertainment show.

(That’s a long set-up.)

One of those history romps featured a film interview with Thomas Edison, in his 80s.  I recall it was on the event of Edison’s 86th birthday, but don’t hold me to that — especially since he didn’t live to 86 (1847-1931; this is a demonstration of the faults of memory, especially mine).

The interviewer asked Edison, the inventor and practical applicator of chemistry and physics, what he thought of new science, specifically, Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.  Edison’s answer was direct, honest and startling — so much so that I wrote it down on a long-lost notepad.

‘I don’t think anything of Einstein’s theory of relativity,’ Edison said, ‘because I don’t understand it.’

Can you help me track down exactly what Edison said about relativity, and where and when?

Query: Who wrote this first? Two novels that change a 14 year-old’s life, Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged

February 7, 2013

Eye of Sauron, or John Galt?

Lord of the Rings features a time when evil almost wins. Atlas Shrugged celebrates such dystopia.

I first heard this within the past couple of years.  As with too many really good lines that get passed around the internet, it came to me first with no source listed.

It’s rather brilliant.  To whom do we properly give credit for its invention?

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Update:  In comments, Ellie and Liam both point to John Rogers at Kung Fu Monkey, March 19, 2009.  Sounds good.  Can anyone pin it on anyone else, earlier?



Who is that woman with Sen. Watkins, Sec. Benson and President Eisenhower?

June 5, 2010

Minor mystery, but still, it nags.

Who is the woman in this photo?  This is a chance to play history detective.

Sen. Arthur V. Watkins, Sec. of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, President Eisenhower, and unidentified woman, 9-9-1958, Shipler Photography image via Utah Hist Soc

Utah Sen. Arthur V. Watkins, Sec. of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, with unidentified woman, on September 9, 1958. Photo by Shipler Commercial Photography, scanned at Marriott Library from the collection of the Utah Historical Society (which holds the rights).

I stumbled across the photo at the on-line archives of the Utah Historical Society.  At the time of this picture, Watkins was running for re-election in a race he would lose in November, in a three-way vote split, to Democrat Frank E. Moss.  Watkins had run afoul of very conservative Utah politics when he chaired the Senate select committee that investigated Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and recommended censure of McCarthy.

Ezra Taft Benson served as Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture for the full eight years of Eisenhower’s administration.  Benson was an arch conservative, closely affiliated with the extreme right-leaning John Birch Society, which officially regarded Eisenhower as a bit of a traitor. Benson later served as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, or Mormon).

Oddly, the picture doesn’t identify the woman.  She’s in a wheel chair.  The large stone columns suggest this is a government building, or monument.  The microphone is set at the level of the woman, so obviously she was speaking at this event, whatever it was.  In an election year, such a scene might be played out in the state of the election, Utah — but I suspect it was a Washington, D.C., venue (was Eisenhower in Utah in 1958?).  Shipler Photography was a Utah company, though — what would they be doing in Washington?

Who is that woman?  What was the event?  Where was it?


Update: Best guess so far:  Louise Lake, a polio victim from Salt Lake City, and “handicapped American of the year” for 1958. See comments.

Quote query: Where did Boorstin write this?

August 17, 2009

Daniel Boorstin, Librarian of Congress, Information Bulletin January 2003

Daniel Boorstin, Librarian of Congress, Information Bulletin January 2003

According to several sources, Daniel Boorstin, the late historian and former Librarian of Congress, wrote:

I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress. No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever.

Does anyone know in what book or essay, or speech, he wrote or said that, and when?

Encore Quote of the Moment: Sherman, on war

May 29, 2007

By Mathew Brady - Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Brady-Handy Collection, reproduction number LC-DIG-cwpbh-04445., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33594

By Mathew Brady – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Brady-Handy Collection, reproduction number LC-DIG-cwpbh-04445., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33594

“There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.” – Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman,

from an address to the graduating class of the Michigan Military Academy, June 19, 1879, known as his “War is hell” speech (Wikipedia entry on Sherman).
(Query: Does anyone have an electronic link to the full text of Sherman’s address that day? Or, do you know where it might be found, even in hard copy?)

David Parker quoted the prayer out of Mark Twain’s disturbing story, “The War Prayer.Go there for a discussion on what Twain meant, and just how much opposed to war he was.

For a deeper context, and a Jeff Danziger cartoon that will make you stand up and think, see the original post of this quote.

Historical query: Lincoln and Darwin

February 13, 2007

Celebration was understated here for the dual birthday of Lincoln and Darwin.  While I support greater festivities, other activities filled the calendar here in the Bathtub.*

But I do have a question:  Do we know at approximately what time Lincoln, or Darwin, was born?  I’ve been fascinated for years with the fact that Lincoln and Darwin were born on the exact same day, February 12, 1809; obviously, Darwin was born in England, and Lincoln in the U.S.  But I wonder, how far apart in time were the births?  How great a coincidence is this great coincidence?

My search for birth times hasn’t been exhaustive, but I’m coming up dry on both of them.  Can anyone lend a hand with references or the actual times?

Good heavens!  I wanted to link to the little poem, “Ode to the Thing that Keeps the Wolf from the Door” here — I cannot find it on the web!  Odd what the virtual world finds worthy in literature.

Query: Capt. Bucher’s confession?

September 28, 2006

I’m looking for a good copy of the full text of the “confession” of Capt. Lloyd Bucher of the U.S.S. Pueblo, the spy ship captured by North Korea in 1968.  I have a couple of versions that are alleged to be excerpts — I am particularly interested in what I recall that I have not found:  Navigation instructions that would have put the ship off the coast of Alaska, and a reference to the definition of rape in the Uniforme code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

If you know of a source, especially on-line, please let me know.

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